Fall in Love at the Cheese Capital
Whether you're coming from afar for your first visit to Wisconsin or you're traveling from within the state, there are plenty of options to ensure you have a romantic getaway to remember.
This college town might have you thinking back to your first love. For colder days, head straight to Museum Mile. Tour the rooftop sculpture garden at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (227 State St., Madison, WI) and, inside, imagine the tumultuous love life of artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, whose paintings are in the permanent collection. Admission is free. If you’ve brought the kids with you, stop in at the Madison Children’s Museum (100 N. Hamilton St., Madison, WI) which also has a four-season rooftop garden.
The Olbrich Botanical Gardens (3330 Atwood Ave., Madison, WI) is another all-season destination. Sixteen acres of outdoor gardens coexist with an indoor tropical paradise that may just inspire plans for an exotic second honeymoon. In the evening, illuminated art installations add mystery to your garden stroll. Admission to the outdoor garden is free, though donations are welcomed. The indoor garden costs $2, and is free on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
For sunset views of Madison's pretty skyline, take a romantic cruise on Lakes Monona and Mendota. Then head to upscale Heritage Tavern (131 E. Mifflin St., Madison, WI) for farm-to-table cuisine and an approachable atmosphere.
If life has been too busy, plan a relaxing spa weekend in Elkhart Lake. Winter or summer, leave your day-to-day life behind and refocus on romance.
Aspira Spa at the Osthoff Resort (101 Osthoff Ave., Elkhart Lake, WI) is one of the Midwest's premier spas. For a lavish weekend, do a getaway package which includes a couples massage, a one-night stay at Osthoff and dining credit for breakfast at Otto’s Restaurant and dinner at Lola’s on the Lake, both within the resort complex. Take a yoga class together before your massage to help realign your body and mind, and enjoy the indoor and outdoor whirlpools afterward.
Tip your hat to the romantic pottery scene from the movie “Ghost” with a pottery workshop at Two Fish Gallery (244 E. Rhine St., Elkhart Lake, WI). Add some no-cost activities like hanging out on the beach, admiring the vivid colors of the fall foliage or hiking in Kettle Moraine State Forest.
Green Bay is a family-friendly city, so after a fun-filled day with the kids, you shouldn't feel guilty about leaving them with a babysitter while you catch a just-for-two concert or show at the historic Meyer Theatre (117 S. Washington St., Green Bay, WI).
One of Green Bay's prime fun spots is Bay Beach Amusement Park (1313 Bay Beach Road, Green Bay, WI), open May to September. Its 18 different attractions will keep everyone busy, and it’s an amusement park rarity—easy on the budget. There’s free parking and no entrance fee, and all rides cost $1 or less. This means it's easy to take the kids here in the daytime and then leave them with a babysitter so you can return in the evening for a little hand holding with your honey on the 1952 Ferris wheel or a cozy ride together on the Zippin Pippin roller coaster.
For a casual but romantic dinner, try Kroll’s West (1990 S. Ridge Road, Green Bay, WI). Their baked tenderloin is served with two separate fillets, so it’s perfect for sharing. A higher-end choice is Hinterland High Gravity Kitchen (1001 Lombardi Ave., Green Bay, WI) where dining choices get adventurous and you can be sure to find a perfectly-paired wine to toast your relationship.
Summer in Door County
There’s so much to see in Door County that you can split it into two visits, perhaps one sunny summer trip and another winter weekend escape.
Door County has a bounty of outdoor activities to enjoy when the weather is great. Rent a double kayak or a tandem bike, or just take a walk past cherry orchards where blossoms fall like confetti. Spend some time together wandering the outdoors at the Ridges Sanctuary (8270 WI 57, Baileys Harbor, WI), a nonprofit nature reserve, or climb to the top of the 140-year-old Cana Island Light (8800 E. Cana Island Road, Baileys Harbor, WI) and stand together surveying the whole 8.7-acre island from one of Wisconsin's picturesque lighthouses.
Near the trails of Peninsula Park, stay at Eagle Harbor Inn (9914 Water St. South, Ephraim, WI), an elegant bed and breakfast with double whirlpools and fireplaces in many rooms. Take the opportunity to sleep in, and not to worry about breakfast because full breakfast is served until 2:30 p.m.!
Winter in Door County
Cuddle together under a blanket for a Door County winter sleigh or carriage ride past cute villages and beautiful snow-covered orchards. If you love being outside despite the chill, hike to Cave Point (5360 Schauer Road, Sturgeon Bay, WI). While it's often crowded in the summer, you'll have it all to yourselves in the winter.
If you'd prefer spending your day inside where it's warm, create a piece of art together at Hands On Art Studio (3655 Peninsula Players Road, Fish Creek, WI). You can choose to weld a metal sculpture, paint ceramics, make a mosaic, or even create matching rings out of precious metal clay. Friday nights are for grown-ups only. You can bring a bottle of wine with you and order snacks while creating your masterpiece. Some nights have live music too. Get inspired by first visiting some of the local art studios, such as Edgewood Orchard Galleries (4140 Peninsula Players Road, Fish Creek, WI) and Margaret Lockwood Gallery (7 S. Second Ave., Sturgeon Bay, WI).
Share an old-fashioned milkshake together at Wilson's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor (9990 Water St. South, Ephraim, WI). After tummies settle, have dinner at the moderately-priced Harbor View Grill (7821 Horseshoe Bay Road, Egg Harbor, WI) with beautiful views of Green Bay and handcrafted desserts to cap off your night out.
The Blacksmith Inn on the Shore (8152 WI-57, Baileys Harbor, WI) has gorgeous water views so you can admire the outdoors while staying toasty warm. Breakfast is included, as are homemade cherry oatmeal cookies and afternoon popcorn.
Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism. Writing for a variety of Canadian and international publications, she likes to encourage travel that is culturally, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEater and on Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna.